Identifying locations of refugia from the thermal stresses of climate change for coral reefs and better managing them is one of the key recommendations for climate change adaptation. We review and summarize approximately 30 years of applied research focused on identifying climate refugia to prioritize the conservation actions for coral reefs under rapid climate change. We found that currently proposed climate refugia and the locations predicted to avoid future coral losses are highly reliant on excess heat metrics, such as degree heating weeks. However, many existing alternative environmental, ecological, and life-history variables could be used to identify other types of refugia that lead to the desired diversified portfolio for coral reef conservation. To improve conservation priorities for coral reefs, there is a need to evaluate and validate the predictions of climate refugia with long-term field data on coral abundance, diversity, and functioning. There is also the need to identify and safeguard locations displaying resistance toprolonged exposure to heat waves and the ability to recover quickly after thermal exposure. We recommend using more metrics to identify a portfolio of potential refugia sites for coral reefs that can avoid, resist, and recover from exposure to high ocean temperatures and the consequences of climate change, thereby shifting past efforts focused on avoidance to a diversified risk-spreading portfolio that can be used to improve strategic coral reef conservation in a rapidly warming climate.
McClanahan, Tim R.; Darling, Emily S.; Beger, Maria; Fox, Helen E.; Grantham, Hedley S.; Jupiter, Stacy D.; Logan, Cheryl A.; Mcleod, Elizabeth; McManus, Lisa C.; Oddenyo, Remy M.; Surya, Gautam S.; Wenger, Amelia S.; Zinke, Jens; and Maina, Joseph M., "Diversification of refugia types needed to secure the future of coral reefs subject to climate change" (2023). Marine Science Faculty Publications and Presentations. 6.